While YouTube has emerged as a marketing juggernaut for bridal shops, many are also discovering the free video-sharing service has scores of other uses – all of which are also free for the taking. “We’ve posted two videos of sneak peeks into our private bridal rooms – one, a mannequin challenge, just because it was fun, and a video of David Tutera mentioning our bridal shop, because who wouldn’t want that for everyone to see?” says Leigh Barnes, co-owner of Albert Griffin Bridal in Lakeland, Fla.
    Employee recruiting, client communications, product/service how-tos and dissemination of news are all increasing in popularity on YouTube, as bridal shops and other small businesses transform the medium into a Swiss Army Knife of business communications.
    “If you’ve never visited the YouTube website, you’ve missed out on the hottest thing on the Internet today,” says Michael Miller, author of “YouTube for Business” (Que Publishing, 2011).
    Unquestioningly, one of the major reasons bridal shops and other small businesses are flocking to YouTube is its runaway popularity.  Just a blip on the Web a half-dozen years ago, the video-sharing service has since rocketed to one of the most visited sites on the Internet.  
    In fact, YouTube currently boasts more than a billion users, according to Larry Page, CEO of Alphabet, YouTube’s parent company. Three hundred hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute. Plus, the online video-sharing service has been localized in 75 countries and made available in 61 languages.
    Moreover, half of all YouTube views now take place on mobile devices, according to the company.  And more than a million user-created channels in dozens of countries are generating ad revenue from the service.
    Indeed, among consumers 13-24, online video is now more popular than traditional TV, according to a recent study by Hunter Qualitative Research. The age group studied spends 11.3 hours a week watching free online video, compared to 8.3 hours a week watching traditional TV.  
    Besides its unquestionable popularity with young people, YouTube’s ease of entry and low cost also makes it hard for bridal shops to resist.  Virtually anyone with basic PC skills can upload a video to YouTube – for free – in a matter of minutes And since YouTube’s videos are generally viewed on a relatively small screen, there’s no reason to endure painful budgets for video production costs.  In fact, the subtleties of high-end video production are generally lost on YouTube, according to Miller.
    Plus, bridal shops are saving significant coin using YouTube, by shifting hosting responsibilities for their company videos to the online video service. Ordinarily, you must pay additional transmission charges anytime a website visitor views a video hosted on your store’s website. But when that same video is uploaded to YouTube’s servers, you never pay additional transmission costs – no matter how many times that video is viewed.
    All told, it’s a frothy mix of remarkable popularity, ease-of-entry and non-existent hosting costs that have the wheels of innovation spinning at countless bridal shops. So far, here are the top ten uses they’ve forged:

1. Marketing. This is without a doubt the most popular bridal shop use of YouTube, and can be wildly successful. Businesses with shoestring promotional budgets have become overnight stars on the service, often with zany and off-the-wall marketing pitches.
    Besides using humor, bridal shops can also use the marketing side of YouTube to give video tours of their facilities or feature interviews with key employees. This can reassure current and prospective customers they’re going to be doing business with a professional, people-friendly  salon.
    Bella Novia Bridal Shop in Paso Robles, Calif., for example, markets itself with a video featuring a voice-over by the shop’s owner (http://goo.gl/26fi3Y).
    And Elle Bridal Boutique in San Diego introduces prospective customers to its goods and services with an owner-guided video tour of the shop (http://goo.gl/R0S8sn).

2. Recruiting. Given that many bridal shops already have videos touting their businesses as inviting places to work, posting those same productions on YouTube is a no-brainer.  
    “Don’t limit yourself to a single, long puff video,” Miller says. “Produce separate videos for individual departments, as well as to illustrate company values, employee benefits, facilities and the like.”

3. Company Video FAQs. Any bridal shop can leap well beyond the image of faceless industry player with on-the-fly videos, which feature charming customer service people answering frequently asked questions.  Sure, many businesses already have written FAQs on their websites. But there is something to be said for going the extra mile and offering the personal touch that’s inherent in the video medium.
    Lori Allen, owner of Bridals by Lori in Sandy Springs, Ga., for example, offers advice about dealing with a tricky mother-in-law issue (http:goo.gl/Dxh5Ic).

4. News Video Clips. The beauty of posting your business’ news to YouTube is that your information is not sliced, diced or in any other way whittled down to a mere shadow of its former glory. Plus, if you have a Facebook or Instagram site, you can cross-promote the two online presences by posting company news on Facebook with a link to your supporting video on YouTube.
    With Love Bridal Boutique in Ottawa, Ontario, offers breaking news of bridal trends for 2017 on its YouTube Channel (http://goo.gl/RFqsHp).

5. Focus Groups. Many sophisticated YouTube users are also using the service as a free testing ground for commercials they plan to run on cable and broadcast TV, and elsewhere on the Web.  
    Specifically, they use YouTube’s free analytical tool, YouTube Analytics. (http://goo.gl/nJtNZx), to test the marketing punch of their commercials.  
    The tool’s metrics include the overall popularity of your video, who’s viewing your video, where those viewers are coming from on the Web, and what keywords they’re using to find your video.

6. Customer Communications. When an e-mail or friendly phone call simply doesn’t cut it, many businesses are posting videos to YouTube to connect in special ways with their customers.
    Aysha’s Boutique & Bridal Shop in Orlando, Fla., for example, reaches out to the Hispanic community with a video of a beauty contest winner, who pitches the shop in Spanish (http://goo.gl/bhCNdQ).
    And Little White Dress Bridal Shop in Denver offers a video advisory against buying a wedding gown online on its YouTube Channel (http://goo.gl/C2jyRn).

7.Employee-to-Employee Communications. As far as Google, the parent company of YouTube, is concerned, “videomail” could be poised to become the e-mail of this decade. In fact, Google has added “Google Video” to its Google Apps suite for business.  
    Makes sense. Why not zip off a response to a thorny problem or challenge using video, if it’s easier to do so than in another medium? At the very least, videomail is a trend worth experimenting with and monitoring, either on YouTube or via Google Apps.

8. Product/Service How-Tos: These videos can of course serve a dual purpose for your shop, offering detailed info for novice clients, while serving as a promotional spot for looky-lous.
    Aleana’s Bridal Shop in Paramus, N.J., for example, offers a YouTube video on how it custom makes some of its bridal gowns  (http://goo.gl/zz2KUT).
    Meanwhile, Jasmine Galleria in Lombard, Ill., offers a sample of the videography it can do for weddings (http://goo.gl/c29vcc).

9. Employee Training. Any bridal shop with multiple locations across town, across the U.S. or even across the world can immediately see the benefit of posting training videos on YouTube, and having the appropriate staff dial in.  
    And by using YouTube’s “private broadcast” option, your business can ensure the training videos stay internal.  
    “Many companies find that YouTube is a fast and effective way to disseminate all kinds of employee information,” Miller says.  “Done right, it gets information out there in near-real-time, with all the benefit of face-to-face communication.”

10. Savings on Business Travel. While even the best YouTube video can’t replace the benefits of face-to-face interaction and seeing and touching dresses in person that markets offer, the reality is that your entire staff can’t attend every show. With store and manufacturer videos posted to YouTube, however, they can stay in the loop – on styles, educational seminars and the like. In this way, a video overture acts as a bulls-eye compromise between basic e-mail communications and an all-expenses paid business trip for multiple employees to all the shows.
    “YouTube is very easy to use, everyone knows what it is, and it allows us to post videos without shelling out money,” says Albert Griffin’s Barnes.